Mangilao Village, Guam
Mangilao Village, Guam

University of Guam is a four-year land-grant institution, located in the village of Mangilao on the island of Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and offers thirty-four degree programs at the undergraduate level and eleven master’s level programs.Of the University’s 3,387 students, 91% are of Asian-Pacific Islander ethnicity, and nearly 69% are full-time . A full-time faculty of about 180 supports the University’s mission of "Ina, Diskubre, Setbe"— which translates to "To Enlighten, to Discover, to Serve." Wikipedia.

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Archaeological investigations at the Ritidian site in Guam provide a series of radiocarbon dates spanning the potential range of human presence in the region. Paired marine and terrestrial samples offer a basis for δR calculation, as well as evaluation of the utility of different types of marine samples for 14C dating of archaeological contexts. The results indicate an early period of temporary fishing camp activity in the context of higher sea level and little or no stable beach, followed by larger-scale residential activity in the context of lower sea level and an extensive stable beach landform. © 2010 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.

Volcanically active islands abound in the tropical Pacific and harbor complex coral communities. Whereas lava streams and deep ash deposits are well-known to devastate coral communities through burial and smothering, little is known about the effect of moderate amounts of small particulate ash deposits on reef communities. Volcanic ash contains a diversity of chemical compounds that can induce nutrient enrichments triggering changes in benthic composition. Two independently collected data sets on the marine benthos of the pristine and remote reefs around Pagan Island, Northern Mariana Islands, reveal a sudden critical transition to cyanobacteria-dominated communities in 2009-2010, which coincides with a period of continuous volcanic ash eruptions. Concurrently, localized outbreaks of the coral-killing cyanobacteriosponge Terpios hoshinota displayed a remarkable symbiosis with filamentous cyanobacteria, which supported the rapid overgrowth of massive coral colonies and allowed the sponge to colonize substrate types from which it has not been documented before. The chemical composition of tephra from Pagan indicates that the outbreak of nuisance species on its reefs might represent an early succession stage of iron enrichment (a.k.a. "black reefs") similar to that caused by anthropogenic debris like ship wrecks or natural events like particulate deposition from wildfire smoke plumes or desert dust storms. Once Pagan's volcanic activity ceased in 2011, the cyanobacterial bloom disappeared. Another group of well-known nuisance algae in the tropical Pacific, the pelagophytes, did not reach bloom densities during this period of ash eruptions but new species records for the Northern Mariana Islands were documented. These field observations indicate that the study of population dynamics of pristine coral communities can advance our understanding of the resilience of tropical reef systems to natural and anthropogenic disturbances. © 2012 Tom Schils.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROV | Award Amount: 403.56K | Year: 2012

The University of Guam (UOG) will coordinate a Region-wide planning effort that will include members of the U.S. Affiliated Pacific-territories of Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. freely associated states of Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau. By developing a science and technology (S&T) infrastructure, Guam and other U.S. Pacific Islands, will be able to address current economic and environmental challenges. The UOG is developing a plan to address education reform and research infrastructure improvement, both of which will impact and improve the Islands S&T workforce. Within that plan, this project will support a regional planning effort to: (i) develop a priority list of coastal and marine research issues to be addressed through a Guam led EPSCoR RII Track I proposal; (ii) develop a second level list of scientific issues to be vetted by the Pacific Region Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (PacSTEM) Coalition for inclusion in the long-term PacSTEM S&T Plan; and (iii) partner with regional STEM education and outreach initiatives to add contemporary sustainability content and workforce development strategies to existing programs, and establish new certificates and AAS programs in coastal and marine sciences. The PacSTEM S&T Plan will determine the future science and engineering thrusts for Guam and the region in the years ahead and will play a critical role in establishing and implementing a long-term S&T framework.

Intellectual Merit: The U.S. island associated states and territories of the Western Pacific are challenged by the extreme effects of climate change, population growth on Guam, and bio-security risks occasioned by these significant changes. Island sustainability is therefore a major regional and economic issue. UOG has scientific focus on marine resources, from ridges to reefs, and is an emerging university in the field for interdisciplinary, collaborative scientific research. By organizing S&T capacity-building around the coastal and marine research theme, popular and economic support will be generated within the community. It will also create lasting STEM career opportunities.

Broader Impacts: This project has a high potential for broader impacts in the Western Pacific U.S. territories and affiliated states. This region is isolated, the infrastructure is underdeveloped, and the population is largely underrepresented and underserved in STEM. This project will allow UOG to lead the development of a regional S&T plan and develop a full proposal to improve the research infrastructure. These efforts will have significant impacts on Under Represented Minority (URM) groups, including Pacific Islanders. The proposal includes coordination between UOG and community colleges and other educational institutions on Guam and the partner islands.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Cooperative Agreement | Program: | Phase: RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROV | Award Amount: 4.06M | Year: 2015

Non-technical Description

The University of Guam (UOG) will establish the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium (GEC) to coordinate research in coral and marine ecology. The project will leverage Guam?s unique marine biodiversity to enhance research and education capacity while improving understanding of how coral reefs respond to environmental stress and climate change. The GEC will establish collaborations with leading universities and researchers from around the US and globally to initiate a research and education program at UOG focusing on coral reef ecology and marine biodiversity. The project will provide mechanisms for collaborative visits, exchange of doctoral students, and virtual collaborations. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) enhancements will support a repository for marine biodiversity which will serve as a global resource and establish Guam as a destination for marine ecosystems research.

Technical Description

The GEC will use RNA sequencing analysis (RNA-seq) and single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to examine genetically based stress responses in organisms found in coral reefs around Guam. A repository for biological samples and genomic and transcriptomic data will be established and connected globally via an upgraded internet connection (500 Mbps). A sensor network will be established in Pago Bay to measure environmental conditions such as temperature, salinity, and turbidity for correlating with physiological responses of corals to environmental stressors. Existing expertise in coral reef ecology and marine biology will be enhanced through new faculty hires and collaborations with researchers from other institutions. Agreements with other universities will allow the shared training of doctoral students. Research experiences will be provided for undergraduate students and teachers and the program would support a citizen science project for Pago Bay synergistic with the coral ecology research.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: DISCOVERY RESEARCH K-12 | Award Amount: 18.20K | Year: 2012

The University of Guam is awarded funding to remodel an existing indoor, air-conditioned space at its Marine Laboratory (UOGML)to create a dedicated laboratory for visiting researchers and thus providing a resource currently lacking at the facility. Established in 1970, the UOGML serves the US-affiliated islands of Micronesia, including the Territory of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Belau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. As the only U.S. marine research station in the equatorial Pacific that includes a modern research laboratory, UOGML is important in meeting the research and educational needs of the region as well as supporting research by visiting scientists. No other U.S. facility provides both a well equipped laboratory and easy access to the diverse flora and fauna near the epicenter of marine biodiversity in the tropical western Pacific Ocean, thus serving as a research and educational gateway to a wide variety of biomes from shallow coral reefs to the Mariana Trench (the deepest biome in Earths oceans).

UOGML provides access to Guams marine and terrestrial habitats with access to research assets and equipment as well as project support. The dedicated visitors laboratory will help visitors make the most of these assets, increase visitor productivity and encourage the wider use of the UOGML by visitors. As a resource for scientific discovery, the new laboratory will also encourage scientists from around the world to conduct research at a geographically and academically isolated marine laboratory, thus expanding productive research activity at UOGML and also providing both faculty and students with a more vibrant intellectual atmosphere. The lab will promote new and higher levels of scientific collaboration between UOGML and other researchers, especially across disciplines and across biomes given Guams unique geographical setting.

UOGML is especially important to the under-served people of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific-island nations who depend on UOGML for training and scientific expertise. This group has relatively few other opportunities locally for academic training in marine biology or scientific research in general and also limited opportunity for interacting with the larger international scientific community. Thus, increasing visiting-scientist activity at UOGML will benefit the scientific and educational capacity of the region directly.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 194.13K | Year: 2011

Diverse chemical compounds play critical roles in the defenses of many marine organisms and can influence the community structure of entire ecosystems. This complexity reaches a peak on tropical coral reefs, which are well-known targets for prospecting biomedical agents. Although many marine natural products have been studied for biomedical activity, yielding important information about their biochemical effects and mechanisms of action, much less is known about predators abilities to overcome these defenses. It is important to understand how predators cope with poisons in their diet (from prey biochemical defenses) and how these systems parallel humans ability to remove foreign chemicals that are encountered in their every day lives (drugs, pollutants, toxins, etc.) This projects use of herbivorous reef fish to define mechanisms of tolerance to chemically-rich diets will help fill important gaps: Fish that have evolved in (and depend on) chemically-rich coral-reef environments should be valuable models for studying mechanisms of xenobiotic tolerance. This knowledge will help to develop marine natural products as biomedical resources for humans; and, mechanisms of xenobiotic tolerance in herbivorous fish will provide fascinating and potentially insightful counterparts to mechanistic studies in well-studied terrestrial organisms such as insects. The vast majority of vertebrates are fishes, yet little is currently known about how fish tolerate their preys biochemical defenses especially in tropical marine communities, where these mechanisms can be assumed to be highly developed. A state of the art genetic approach will characterize all genes expressed in the liver of S. spinus, a fish species that broadly represents chemically resistant tropical herbivorous fishes. These genes will be used to build a microarray chip to quantify changes in gene expression in response to differing environmental conditions. All gene sequences will be submitted to the National Center for Biological Information (available on This work will provide an opportunity to define diet-driven adaptive mechanisms in tropical herbivorous vertebrates for the first time, and increase understanding of herbivore offense. Guams island community has strong ties to the ocean, making marine science a valuable opportunity for presenting locally relevant scientific concepts and methods to a public to whom science often seems foreign. Public presentations and paid summer high-school research internships and the involvement of undergraduate and graduate biology majors will help to expand these opportunities. A better understanding of tropical fishes mechanisms for coping with dietary xenotoxins can contribute to resource-management efforts to minimize impacts from nuisance species of alga (e.g., cyanobacteria and other harmful algal blooms; ciguatera poisoning). This project also has potential for initiating additional collaborative efforts towards ecologically relevant metabolomic and proteomic analyses of S. spinus. For people that depend on the ocean for food, understanding why some natural products persist in marine food chains can be equivalent to understanding the size and/or safety of their most important resource.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: ASSEMBLING THE TREE OF LIFE | Award Amount: 115.76K | Year: 2011

Echinoderms include familiar animals such as starfishes, sea urchins, and a wide array of extinct forms stretching back to the Cambrian Period, circa 500 million years ago. Echinoderms share a common ancestor with backboned animals and thus provide a crucial link to understanding a huge portion of the entire tree of life as well as the history of our species. This project, the Echinoderm Tree of Life Project, will resolve the phylogenetic placement of Echinoderms within the tree of life and clarify important unresolved relationships among major echinoderm lineages using data from genetic sequencing and anatomy.

Echinoderms are fascinating, and their unique features, such as mutable ligaments and novel means of detecting light, have biomedical engineering applications. Because research on such marine animals and their adaptations is naturally attractive to young people, excellent students are expected to be recruited and the importance of science will be communicated to a broad audience. Long-term impacts, embodied by scientific publications, textbooks, anatomical and genomic data, and extensive pages in the Tree of Life and Encyclopedia of Life web projects, will provide resources to researchers and educators. Outreach will include videos and broadcasts about marine exploration and applications of fundamental biological research across the biomedical sciences.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 59.88K | Year: 2015

Limestone provides 25 percent of the worlds population with drinking water and contains more than 50 percent of the worlds known hydrocarbon reserves. Limestones high solubility allows for the formation of caves that control the flow of water and hydrocarbons below-ground. Understanding the processes that contribute to the formation of caves is thus necessary for improved characterization of water and hydrocarbon resources. In carbonate platform environments where limestones form (e.g. Bahamas, Yucatan and Florida), zones of unsaturated rock (vadose zone) that exceed 60 m in thickness have been proposed to limit movement of organic carbon from soil to the water table, where oxidation to carbon dioxide (CO2) would otherwise drive corrosion of limestone bedrock. In contrast to this interpretation, cave systems occur in carbonate platforms at depths of more than 100 m below modern sea level. These caves are thought to have formed in contact with fresh groundwater at times in the past when sea level was lower than it is today. Because vadose zones would have been much thicker than 60 m when these caves formed, the geochemical processes responsible for their formation are poorly understood. In this project, the movement of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and CO2 gas to the water table via vadose zone fast flow routes is hypothesized to provide a mechanism for corroding limestone and create caves beneath thick vadose zones. This hypothesis will be tested on the island of Guam, where tectonic uplift has created vadose zones that are up to 180 m in thickness. Cave formation by CO2 that is produced by biological processes in the deep vadose zone runs contrary to the paradigm that caves in carbonate platforms form as a result of mixing waters of different chemical composition. Concepts explored by this proposal thus have potential to transform understanding of the geomorphology and biogeochemistry of the vadose zone by challenging canonical views that mixing dissolution is the principal agent of dissolution and cave formation in carbonate platform landscapes. This project supports STEM education via the training of two PhD students, providing research opportunities for three undergraduate students as well as developing lesson plans about carbonate aquifers for K-12 teachers and hands-on activities for university-led community outreach programs.

The hypothesis that subsoil respiration of CO2, rather than mixing, dominates dissolution in eogenetic limestone will be tested by collecting vadose gases, infiltration and water at water tables on the island of Guam. Uncased monitoring wells provide access for sampling vadose gases and the aquifer. Air-filled caves allow infiltrating recharge and gases to be collected throughout the vadose zone. Sampling before and after a large rain event will test the influence of fast-flow routes on dissolution. DOC in water samples will indicate whether DOC is transported to the water table and thus whether its oxidation could result in dissolution. CO2 profiles through the vadose zone will be used to determine the depths at which CO2 gas is produced. The overarching hypothesis tested here predicts production of CO2 in the vadose zone and at the water table by oxidation of DOC. CO2 and oxygen concentrations will be used together to determine 1) if vadose zone CO2 is produced by respiration or is degassed from recharging water and 2) if CO2 has been lost to the atmosphere by diffusion (typical of soils and a possible tracer of soil respiration). Dissolution of limestone will be traced using Strontium (Sr) isotopes; Guam was selected for this study because differences in the age of limestone that comprises the vadose and phreatic zone allow use of Sr isotope ratios to discriminate between dissolution in the phreatic zone from dissolution that occurs in the vadose zone followed by transport of solutes into the aquifer.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: POP & COMMUNITY ECOL PROG | Award Amount: 252.11K | Year: 2013

Fruit-eating vertebrates have experienced steep declines in abundance and diversity in many of the tropical forests in Asia, Africa, and South America. Many of the tropical trees that need high light to grow from seeds to adults depend largely on these vertebrates to carry their seeds to new openings, or gaps, in the forest created by treefalls. This project will investigate whether the disappearance of fruit-eating vertebrates is reducing the abundance of these trees and causing forest gaps to persist and accumulate. To test this, researchers will compare forests on the island of Guam, which has lost nearly all its fruit-eating vertebrates due to the introduction of a predatory snake, and on three nearby islands that retain native, fruit-eating, forest birds and, in one case, a native, fruit-eating bat. Studies will measure the dynamics of forest gaps on the islands, compare the light requirements of 16 common tree species, and test the effects of experimentally preventing dispersal of seeds on islands that do have birds.

This research will directly aid state and federal agencies to manage and restore tropical forests on Guam. Results should also be of use to managers of other tropical forests, since many pioneer species in the tropics are dispersed by vertebrates, and enlarge our understanding of the potential environmental consequences of introducing species to new areas. The project will provide scientific training for Pacific Islanders and run a special, three-week course in island ecology for students from local colleges.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: PALEOCLIMATE PROGRAM | Award Amount: 164.34K | Year: 2011

This project explores any spatial and temporal changes in precipitation over the Holocene (last 10,000 years) across the Western Pacific Warm Pool (WPWP) from hydrologic records generated from speleothems from Guam, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and the Philippines. The overall goal of the research is to determine if the tropical Pacific played an active or passive role in driving the changes in the global hydrological cycle over the Holocene.

The research questions being pursued include: Did insolation forcing directly cause meridional changes associated with the monsoon and InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the WPWP over the Holocene? Did external insolation forcing induce internal changes in the tropical Pacific via zonal changes, or ENSO, to cause precipitation changes in the WPWP over the Holocene?

Specific objectives of the project include: 1) measuring Uranium-series ages and oxygen isotopic composition of speleothem samples from Guam, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines for the last 10,000 years at decadal-scale resolution; 2) determining the spatial and temporal hydrologic variability across the WPWP for the last 10,000 years by comparing paleoclimate records from sites that experience different climate dynamics to separate the influence of ENSO dynamics and monsoon dynamics on WPWP; and 3) returning to the sites in the WPWP to collect additional speleothems, cave dripwaters, bedrock and soils to ensure that we accurately interpret the speleothem records

The broader impacts involve linking paleoclimate reconstructions with hydrologic studies. This provides potential benefits for regional and local water resources management. The project would also support a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin and a M.S. student at the University of Guam.

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